City engineers permanently shut down St. Anthony Parkway Bridge to all vehicle traffic last Friday after they found heavy trucks and school buses were routinely ignoring the bridge’s posted three-ton weight limit.
The deteriorating, 89-year-old bridge was already scheduled to be replaced by fall of 2016, with construction probably beginning next spring. The city hoped to keep it open until October by limiting traffic to smaller vehicles, but it abruptly scrapped those plans when neighbors raised alarm over frequent crossings by school buses full of kids.
“Everybody was still driving across it, and one of my neighbors kept seeing school buses crossing, so she called a bus company and found that even a short bus, empty without any kids, weighs more than three tons,” said Park Board President Liz Wielinski, who lives a few blocks from the bridge.
Jack Yuzna, the city’s project coordinator, said his staff is looking into reopening the bridge for bikers and pedestrians.
Vehicle traffic coming from the north will have to take 44th Avenue in Columbia Heights to cross the railroad tracks, owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. Vehicle traffic from the south will be detoured on Lowry Avenue over to University Avenue.
“Well, it’s very inconvenient having the bridge shut down early, but we’re Northeasters and dealing with railroad tracks and bridges are part of living here,” said Wielinski.
A rendering of the new St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, scheduled to open in 2016
The city put the historic bridge up for sale this winter, but Yuzna said only one offer came in, from the Holland Neighborhood Improvement Association (HNIA), and he has serious reservations about the neighborhood’s proposal.
HNIA is exploring purchasing one or two sections of the bridge for a new biking path over the railroad tracks at 27th Avenue and University.
“What we’ve seen so far doesn’t provide the financial assurance that they can afford to move the bridge and get it into place, because it isn’t cheap,” said Yuzna, who estimated HNIA’s project costs to be well into six figures.
Yuzna also said the neighborhood would have to pay to refurbish the bridge and secure easements with the railroad and the city before the project would be considered viable.